Just north of Fort Worth, Texas sits the 1.5 mile, 191,122-seat “Great American Speedway.” Opened on February 29, 1996, Texas Motor Speedway is home to two NASCAR Sprint Cup races: the Samsung Mobile 500 and the AAA Texas 500 which is the eighth race in the NASCAR Chase. To get the full experience, no visiting fan should plan to attend only the Sprint Cup race. For a real taste for Texas Motor Speedway, be prepared for a weekend full of racing which usually includes the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series on Friday night and NASCAR Nationwide Series on Saturday before the Sprint Cup race on Sunday.
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Talk about variety and quality! If you have a craving, chances are there's a concession stand at Texas Motor Speedway with exactly what you are looking for. The options are too vast to list in this section. One stand worthy of a highlight is the clear fan favorite Williams Chicken where you can get a box of fried chicken to take back and share with your crew (or eat for yourself). The price is a little high (12 piece is $21) but that's to be expected inside a venue of this size.
Another great stop is Extreme Loaded Dogs stand where you can score a unique hot dog for $7. Options include the "The Heater" with both a hot dog and fried chicken strip on a bun topped with buffalo sauce and blue cheese slaw, "The Big Kid Dog" which comes with mac and cheese topped with corn chips, the "Taco Dog" (exactly what you think it is), the "Frito Pie Dog" (yup, corn chips and chili), and the "Deli Dog" which is topped with kraut and thousand island dressing. These are just two prime options for you to enjoy.
Other options include your standard stadium fare plus items like fajitas, burritos, corn dogs, chicken-on-a-stick, cheese steak, Italian sausage, turkey legs, smoked sausage, jambalaya, and much more. Refreshment options around the concourse range from Coca-Cola products ($4) to frozen lemonade, shaved ice, and iced tea to name a few. Let's not forget our adult refreshment options which include a variety of beer ($7-$8), fresh margaritas, Bloody Mary's, and other items like spiked lemonade.
If somehow none of these items sound like they'll satisfy your taste buds (or if you're cheap like me), Texas Motor Speedway allows coolers (one per ticket) inside the venue with a max size of 14" x 14" x 14". You can bring your own snacks and drinks, just make sure you don't bring along any glass bottles since they are prohibited for obvious reasons. The only negative thing I can say about food and beverage inside the Speedway is that it's a cash-only venue. That's right, 190,000+ seats and cash only. Be wise and bring cash with you because there are only a couple of ATMs in the concourse with long, excruciating lines and an outrageous $4.50 ATM fee.
Texas Motor Speedway is located north of Fort Worth and west of Dallas, within a 15-20 minute driving range of both cities. The main grandstand is two-tiered and stretches along the front stretch from turn 4 to turn 1 on the west side of the track. In case that's not impressing you as much as it should, keep in mind that comes out to almost three-quarters of a mile of grandstand seating.
On the south side of the track sits the Speedway Club which is attached at the end of the main grandstand. The Speedway Club is nine stories tall and cost approximately $30 million dollars to construct alone. Serving as an exclusive upscale retreat from the open air environment in the main grandstands, the Club includes the "Starlight Dining Room", multiple floors of event space from banquet to meeting rooms, a health club, and spa services.
Also on the south side of the track, in turn 2, is the Lone Star Tower which is one of the most unique structures inside a sports venue in the nation. Standing ten stories tall, the Tower offers office space and condominiums for lease throughout the year and raceday. That's right, for the right price you could live at your favorite track or move your business there.
On the east side of the track is a smaller single-tiered grandstand stretching along the backstretch from just short of turn 2 and 3. This seating area is primarily for Burnout Alley Campground spectators who are able to park their RVs right behind their seats. Just behind Burnout Alley is a carnival including a large Ferris wheel.
Both the north and south edges of the track (in the turns) are open non-seating areas. The main concession stand options are located on the west side of the track but there are concession options on the east side as well. Restroom facilities are adequate and abundantly located around the track.
My recommendation for seating is the second tier of the west grandstand close to the finish line. This will get you out of the sun during a day race since there is a covering that casts shade over this part of the grandstand. It also gives you the best view of the entire track while still being close enough to render you deaf if you don't rent a scanner or bring along earplugs. This will likely be one of your more expensive options, however. If you are looking for your least expensive ticket, look for a seat at the top of the backstretch grandstand, but be prepared for the sun to bare down on you. A midrange option is the lower grandstand in either turn 1 or turn 4 on the front stretch.
The immediate area surrounding the racetrack is bare. You have to drive a little bit to find any sign of civilization. During race weekend, however, the area around the track turns into a temporary city with RVs and camping as far as the eye can see. My recommendation for attractions, good eats, and entertaining nightlife is to stay at the track in one of the campground areas. You'll likely meet a few neighbors that will offer BBQ and beer (that's right, neighbors you may actually like). The sights, sounds, and smells around the track are worthy of a high neighborhood score alone. Get away from the noise of the city out to the countryside and experience the noise of NASCAR (a much more appealing noise than the freeway that passes next to your subdivision).
If you decide to stay in civilization, a 20 minute drive south or east of the track gets you to the Fort Worth and Dallas areas respectively. You don't need me to list options for those cities because you can drive blind and find a great place to eat or stay. A unique area to visit, however, is the small city of Carrollton. Located east of the track and just west of Dallas, Carrollton is the kind of city the average NASCAR fan would likely call home if living in a suburb of a major city. It was actually named one of the top 15 small cities in America in 2008 by Money Magazine.
The historic downtown town square was first established in the early 1900's and will celebrate its 100th year in 2013. Though the area is home to over 120,000, it has a unique small, rural Texas town feel. An absolute must stop is Babe's Chicken Dinner House in Carrollton. Babe's serves a family style meal where family sized bowls of sides like mashed potatoes with gravy and green beans can be scooped onto your plate. You'll have the choice of their homemade fried chicken or chicken fried steak, but make sure you go with the fried chicken. Their homemade fried chicken is so good, you'll start planning your next trip to the Dallas/Fort Worth area just to eat there again.
Other restaurant options to consider in Carrollton are: Agave Azul, Amici Signature Italian, and Sid's Rainbow Grill (an old fashioned soda fountain and grill). You'll also find perusing the many unique shops in Historic Downtown Carrollton to be a quality area attraction. Again, my recommendation for where to stay is in the Texas Motor Speedway campground, but you can also find a great deal in nearby Addison at the Hilton Garden Inn.
NASCAR fans love their sport and you'll quickly find that out at Texas Motor Speedway. Whether it's full front and back graphic tees of their favorite driver, coolers sporting the sponsor of their team car, or even a tattoo of their driver's number, NASCAR fans are some of the most passionate of any sport in America. Fans stand and cheer as the pack of stock cars race by the grandstand. They wave their hats feverishly as if they are somehow pushing their favorite driver further up the pack.
According to Statisticbrain.com, NASCAR attendance has declined between 2005 and 2010 by 22%. Though attendance has been down nationwide at NASCAR venues, it's not due to a waning interest, but simply as a sign of the economic times. Other sports, including the NFL, have attendance concerns as well. The last few races at Texas Motor Speedway have certainly not been at capacity, but that doesn't reduce the passion exhibited by those fans that are in attendance. The roar when favorite drivers like Jimmy Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and others make a move towards the lead is exhilarating. It's hard to explain what it looks like when 150k+ are all standing and cheering on the pack as the white flag drops for the final lap.
Getting to the track is easier than you'd think. The thought of 150k+ fans all descending on the track at the same time with only one major interstate running by the track might be a concern. Keep in mind, however, that many fans arrive early in the weekend for all the festivities and are already at the track prior to your commute in. If you're coming from the Fort Worth area, jump on I-35W and head north; the track is just off I-35W at the intersection with Highway 114.
If you are coming from the Carrollton or Dallas area, Texas Motor Speedway recommends that you avoid Highway 114 as a straight shot into the track area. Your best bet is to either take I-30W to I-35W North or Airport Freeway to I-820 and then connect to I-35W North. Once arriving at the track, it's a breeze to get to a parking spot (parking is free by the way) and begin your trek to the track.
If you are arriving on raceday, don't expect a close parking spot. Get prepared for a long walk away from trackside. Also, a word to the wise, take notes on where you parked. I'd actually recommend using a GPS app on your cell phone to save the location of your parking spot to help you return to that spot after the race. When you leave the track, you'll likely have had a couple of brews, the parking lot will be dark, and the lot will just look like a sea of cars, each section no different than the next.
Another area you may think will give you grief is getting through the gate at such a massive facility. Don't fret, there are many different gates to enter through and virtually no lines at any of them. As you walk in, you'll likely come upon a directory with a venue map. As you make your way inside, the concourses are massive and spacious. Restroom facilities are located throughout the concourse and fairly clean. It's unlikely that you'll experience a line for either men's or women's facilities. The aisles in the grandstand are easy to maneuver.
According to Statisticbrain.com, the average NASCAR Sprint Cup ticket price is $88.16. You can likely score a ticket to the 500 at a range of $50 on the backstretch to $200+ for covered seating on the front stretch. Your best bet is to look for an all-inclusive weekend pass that gets you into the truck, Nationwide, and Sprint races plus maybe pit passes.
NASCAR needs to be careful not to price their event out of their fans' price range. Unlike an NFL team where there's eight home games a year, NASCAR venues only get one or two marquee events per year. That somewhat justifies the need for high ticket prices, but I'd rather see a full grandstand of fans at reduced ticket prices than half-full at $200+. NASCAR fans spend money on more than tickets. An increase in fans also leads to an increase in concessions and definitely in merchandise.
With that said, the opportunity to get close to the track while your favorite stock cars race by at 200 mph is certainly worth the ticket price. It's hard to explain the experience to someone who has never been. After your first race, the smell of gasoline, the breeze created by a passing pack of cars at 200 mph, and the vibration of your ear drums from the sounds of the powerful engines will be seared into your memory.
I'm not kidding, you have to eat at Babe's Chicken Dinner House in Carrollton. No, really.
Need more chicken after eating at Babe's? Grab a box of chicken at Williams Chicken inside the track. Okay, maybe I just love fried chicken, but how many sports venues across the nation offer a box of chicken while you cheer on your favorite team/driver?
With economic times remaining tough, what better way to save money than to bring in your own cooler of snacks and drinks to the stadium?
In yet another unique trackside option, how many sports venues offer a carnival on venue grounds? Ride the Ferris wheel or the tilt-a-whirl, but make sure you do so before enjoying a cooler full of brews or you'll earn the nickname of Ralph Earnhardt, but not for your driving skills.
So is it worth it? Definitely get a weekend pass and take in the entire weekend of racing and camping in the designated campgrounds. I'm not particularly a big fan of the wide-open, spread-out style of racing at Texas Motor Speedway, but the excitement of seeing your favorite driver fly by in person is certainly an experience. Though NASCAR venues around the country might want to consider reviewing their ticket pricing, you can find some relatively affordable options for getting into the stadium and then bring your own cooler of snacks and beverages (and parking is free). If you do it right and take advantage of some of the tips in this review, you'll likely have a unique sports experience that will having you ready to return the next year. So, gas up your RV and head to Texas Motor Speedway for a full weekend of racing.
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